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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  August 20, 2014 1:06am-1:36am EDT

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early let his men rest on the battlefield that night, buried their dead, took care of their wounded, took prisoners to frederick and the next morning on july 10th, 1864, they started their march towards washington, d.c.. only took us about an hour to get here, but i'll pick up the story. early, they spent that night on the battlefield. the next day they maarten, 15 miles, 20 at the most. don't forget, it was really very hot and they were tired and had been marching since june 13th, so they camped in rockville and gaithersburg, which are busy suburbs of washington, d.c. now, but it was farmland there. early started to get money from the city fathers of rockville. there was calvary skirmish from
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there. units from washington came out to do some skirmishing. the next morning, july 11th, early, who's one of those generals out on the horse leading the men, made it right out here, right to the outskirts of fort stevens. if you can picture washington, d.c. as shaped like a diamond, we are right at the very top of the diamond, in the northwest portion of washington, d.c. early about noontime was out of the gates of fort stevens right out here. he had the capitol dome in his sight at noontime, and what did he see? he saw this very impressive series of forts. he saw this fort and it was connected to several other forts around here. it looks impregnable and he saw troops here. early did not know these were 100 days men and the call went out for civilians to come out and help man the barricades, so you had clerks from the state department, men from the quarter
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master corps, people who have never fired a weapon in their life. the word motley comes up more than once, but early did not know this. his men were strung out way along back on the georgetown pike. sorry, not the georgetown pike, the 7th street pike, they cut off the georgetown pike in what is now wheaton, maryland, and cut out to the 7th street pike, georgia avenue, so early, uncharacteristically for him decided not to invade, but there was fighting that went on with artillery and skirmishing that day, july 11th, and that night. this is all, we are now in the city of washington, d.c. it's not urban washington, d.c., but it's definitely city, and -- but back then, this was all farms out here.
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this is hardly considered part of washington, d.c., because washington was down there where the white house is and downtown and georgetown and so on. now they had cleared tries out for firing outside fort stevens, but this was all farmland, and people from washington came out to see what all of the excitement was about, including president lincoln. fort stevens was one of -- might have been the most extensive of the defenses of washington. there were 67 of them, not all of them were as extensive as this one. there was a magazine, looks like barracks, it was enclosed on all four sides. some of them weren't even enclosed. some of them were just pointing out towards the defenses. they were kind of rudimentary, but they were built up very heavily and they were all connected, so -- but fort stevens is sort of at the gate of washington, d.c. at the very tip of the northern diamond, if
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you think of washington shaped like a diamond. and it was heavily defended or heavily fortified, rather, wasn't heavily defended until the 6th corps got up here late in the afternoon on july 11th. this is more or less been reconstructed, but it's more or less what it looked like on july 11th, 1864, with early's artillery out there, the union artillery here, and skirmishing going on and the citizens from washington coming up to see what it was all about. and that included president lincoln. and the plaque that you see says "lincoln under fire at fort stevens." now it also happened on july 11th. july 11th lincoln was here and this represents the only time in american history when a sitting u.s. president came under fire in a shooting war.
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right here on this very shot. the confederate sharp shooters who were out there, don't forget this was all farmland, it was cleared, and back there, trust me, is walter reid army medical center. and on the grounds at walter reid, there's a tree with a plaque on it that supposedly says that this is where a confederate sharp shooter shot at lincoln. the same thing happened on the second day, on july 12th, and that's what that plaque represents, a union surgeon by the name of crawford was standing next to lincoln, probably right here, and was shot in the leg. and that's when lincoln was ordered down at fort stevens. lincoln, you know, 6'4" and a stove pipe hat made a pretty tempting target. now the legend has grown up it was oliver wendell holmes that yelled at lincoln, get down you
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fool, or get down you damn fool, and instantly regretted saying it. i have a whole chapter in the book about that incident, and basically, well, i came to the conclusion that's a hi pockriful story, didn't come out until 1928, it was published in "atlantic monthly" in 1928. supposedly holmes had been telling it privately. i looked into it, i have a whole chapter in the book and going back to letters at the time, memoirs written shortly after the war, and, yes, lincoln did stand here, and, yes, someone yelled at him to come down. more than likely, it was general horacio wright, who said this in 1866, didn't say get down you fool or say that he said that, but i go over that in the book. it's an interesting story, and it's not true. early is at the gates over here
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outside fort stevens with the capitol dome in his sight. at that moment, grant the day before finally seceded and sent the rest of the 6th corps, along with the 19th corps, down in new orleans, they were going to go to the outskirts of richmond. instead, they just stayed on the train, went up to city point with the rest of the 6th corps, got on ships, went out the james river, up the potomac river this time and got off at the old wharf down in washington down at 6th street. citizens were there to greet them, including president lincoln. gave them ice water, they gave them sandwiches. they cheered, because people were panicking when they heard the confederates were out at the gates, so the 6th corps then marched up the old 7th street pike, which is georgia avenue, went by places we know, smithsonian, government buildings downtown, and got out here in the mid afternoon of july 11th and took part in the
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fighting that happened july 11th. and that fighting went into the night. after that, early held a council of war out in silver spring, which is just a couple of miles from here at the mansion of blair -- not the blair mansion, it was actually called silver spring, it was the blair mansion, the blair family. the blairs, prominent family, own blair house down by the white house, they were out of town. they had gone fishing in pennsylvania. now early held a council of war that night with his generals, who were steven dodson, robert emirate roades, john c. breckenridge, the former vice president of the united states under james buchanan, he was from kentucky, a confederate general. he had been in that house before and knew where the wine cellar was, so early and his men drank up the blair wine, had a nice dinner and decided the next
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morning, july 12th, they'd come here bright and early and decide whether or not to attack. they did that and this time early could see that the 6th corps was here. they had a distinctive patch, it was a white cross. so he did not, again, did not invade. however, there was more fighting. there was skirmishing, there was artillery exchanges. men were killed. there were 300 union causalities and we're going to go to the union cemetery later. 300 dead and wounded, we don't know officially how many confederates were wounded, never made the records, but had to be that many or many. that fighting went all of july 12th, or most of the night. july 13th, they looked out here and early's army was gone. they retraced their steps, went back through montgomery county, poolsville and crossed the potomac at whites ford and if anybody has been to whites ford, there's a ferry boat that goes across the potomac and the name of the ferry boat is the jubal
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early and that's where my story ends on july 13th, 1864, a month after early, june 13th, had left richmond to go on this four-part mission. this is georgia avenue that you just looked at, which used to be known as the 7th street pike, which is the route that early came down, and two years after the war, the cemetery was built. it's the second smallest national cemetery. 40 union soldiers are buried in graves behind me there in the circle, and these are monuments to some of the units that served at the battle of fort stevens, but it's a place that i would easyliest mate that hundreds of thousands of people drive by every year and do not know it is here. just off georgia avenue, there's only a small sign, and it's the
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final resting place for 40 union soldiers killed at fighting here in washington, d.c. and a battle that people just don't know about. if you're stuck at the traffic light at 16th street, it's georgia and you're in the right-hand lane and you turn to your right, you can read the inscription on this monument to the confederate soldiers who were killed. it's a monument to a mass grave of confederate soldiers who were killed outside at fort stevens. it was moved there when the church was moved in the early 20th century, i believe, and it also stands right off of georgia avenue, which is a heavily traveled commuter road in and out of washington, d.c.. i'm considering what could have happened with an entire corps of troops left loose in washington, d.c., lean and hungry troops. the treasury was there for the
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looting, the treasury department. they could have burned the capitol. the navy department, which lincoln did not know had a ship waiting for him in the potomac to take him out of town. think about what could have happened to the union cause had there been confederates running loose in the streets of washington, d.c.. don't forget, lincoln was fighting for his political life at this time. this was the presidential election of 1864 was just a few months away. lincoln barely got the republican nomination. he had to choose a democrat for his running mate, andrew johnson of tennessee, and no one -- lincoln's popularity was so low, no one thought he'd win that election. this would have killed any chances that lincoln could have gotten re-elected. and think about this, too, the confederate -- the english and the french were sort of looking for an excuse to come in on the side of the confederacy. they didn't have cnn or c-span back then, but they had newspapers and this got covered.
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just wouldn't have been very good for the union cause had headlines been splashed around the country and around the world that confederate troops were loose in the streets of washington, d.c., so number one, i do believe that what lew wallace did at monacacy did save this from happening. wallace was relieved of his command after he lost that battle, but within two weeks, grant had reinstated him and grant writes in his memoirs and just about everyone else who knows about this agrees, had wallace not on his own blocked early for an entire day, early very well, very well could have caused havoc in washington, d.c., so this is the battle that saved washington and changed the course of american history. you know, think about it. lee's fourth objective and probably his most important in his mind was to try to force grant to take troops out from around richmond and petersburg. grant didn't want to do it. he wait the until the last minute and finally did it. the number of troops went down
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drastically from like 137,000 at the end of june to like almost 70,000 two months later. it did work but it didn't work until april '65. if lee had not forced grant to do this, i really believe that the war could have ended sooner. maybe much sooner. maybe a matter of six months sooner. maybe three months. but, you know, it's a what if and, you know, can never be proven one way or the other. but it's a what if that came pretty close to happening. and it also goes to show that nothing is inevitable in history. sn nothing is inevitable in the civil war. it didn't have to come out the way it did. lots of over things, obviously, had to do with it. this one little piece of the puzzle is very important in the timing and the end of the timing of the end of the civil war.
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if you want to remember it this way, can you remember that august, the one thing to remember about this whole thing is early was one day late. early was late. >> american history tv and prime time continues wednesday with the civil war battle of the crater which took place during the siege of petersburg, virginia, on july 30th, 1864. the battle failed with heavy losses for union troops. at 8:00 p.m., the national park service commemorates the 150th anniversary of the battle and honored the role of color troops. and emanuel dabny discusses how
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the attack failed and why u.s. color troops were unjustly blamed. and at 10:15, author kevin levin discusses how color troops were remembered in the years immediately following the civil war. the battle of the crater at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. >> here's a great read to your summer list, sundays at eight, a collection of stories from the most influential people over the past 25 years. >> there was a risk in the bohemian arsenal and i decided to take it because whether it's delusion or not, i don't think it is, it helped my conservation, it stopped me being bored. it stopped other people being bored to some extent. it would keep me awake. it would make me go on longer and prolong the conversation and enhance the moment. if i was asked would i do it
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again, the answer is probably yes. i would have quit earlier, possibly, hoping to get away with the whole thing. easy for me to say. it's not easy for my children to hear. if i would say yeah, i would do all that again to you. it would be hypothetical for me to say no i wouldn't touch that stuff. i did know. >> the soviet union and the soviet system in eastern europe contained the seeds of the own destruction. many of the problems that we saw at the end begin at the very beginning. i spoke already about the attempt to control all institutions and control all parts of the economy and political life and social life. one of the problems is that when you do that, when you try to control everything, then you create opposition and potential disdense everywhere. if you tell all artist thez have to paint the same way and one artist says, no, i don't want to paint another way, you have just made him into a political
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dissident. >> if you want to subsidize housing in this country and talk about it and the populous agrees that it is something we should subsidize, then put it on the ballot sheet and make it clear and evident and make everybody aware of how much it's costing. but when you deliver it through the third party enterprises, fannie mae and freddie mac, when you deliver the subsidy through a public company with private shareholders and executives who can extract a lot of that subsidy for themselves, that is not a very good way of subsidizing homeownership. >> those were a few of the 41 engaging stories in c-span's sundays at eight. now available at your favorite book seller. >> each week american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums and historic sites around the country. at the outbreak of the civil war in the spring of 1861,
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washington, d.c., was a lightly defended city and vulnerable to attack with only one fort located 12 miles south of the city and virginia was just across the river. by 186 5shgs the nation's capital arguably had become the most fortified city in the world with a ring of about 70 armed forts and batteries encircling the city. we visited three of the surviving forts with dale floyd from the national park service. >> right now we're in the museum which has a variety of different artifacts. one of the nice things is we have a map of the fences of washington and gives you a good idea of where they are today.. fences of washington and gives you a good idea of where they are today. and today we are also going to go to fort foot which is down
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here. and all the way up to fort stephens which is up there. the reason that the forts were built was basically to protect the capital of the united states. it first started in may, may of 1861. soon after virginia succeeded from the union. the troops moved over one night across the potomac over into arlington and alexandria and started building fortifications. after the first battle of manassas in july of 1861 in which the union was actually defeated, the men came streaming back into the city and the city literally the con fed rats could have walked in and taken the city. so after that with the fear, more and more fortifications were built and general john g. bernard who you might call the
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father of the civil war of fences of washington and he was in charge of them for almost the whole war started developing the system of fortifications around the capital and how they would actually defend the city from enemy invaders. after second manassas, which was also a union defeat, fear again and some more impetus to make sure that the fortifications defending washington were doing their job. over the year, the four years, many of the forts were changed. they were made larger. guns within them. they were changed to get the best function out of each fort and out of the system itself. the defenses were tested in july of 1864. now before i say that, there were raids on the forts
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guerrilla forces where they steal horses or supplies or whatever. but the only real attack and it really wasn't an attack, it was a reconnaissance in force took place in july 11th and 12th of 1864 when early had marched up through the valley, fought out near frederick, maryland, and then watched -- marched towards washington coming in on the northern side and eventually came up and faced these forts up there, the main one fort stephens where abraham lincoln actually came out to watch what was going on. he was not successful. he realized he couldn't do what he wanted to do and he eventually turned around and went back down into the valley. and after that, basically, nothing really tested the fortifications after that.
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besides the forts themselves, you had the batteries that were on both sides and the rear or whatever of the forts. you also had trenches that connected the forts all the way around the city. you can see up here where in between you had the covered ways going all the way from one fort to the next to the next battery and on. so troops could move back and forth without being seen. besides the forts, they also built other types of defenses such as block houses and certain places along railroads, channel attacks. and they had other things that they actually built for protection within the whole system of the defenses of washington. so it was actually a system of fortifications and if you attacked one, like if you attacked here, you would catch
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fire from the forts on both sides of that fort. so they were mutually supported. and it was -- it would have been very hard to actually take one fort because of all the fire that you would receive coming from the various forts. so it's not important necessarily about how many forts there were, it's the system and the mutual defense that was there that would really stop an enemy from getting into the city. if you look at some of the pictures they have here, you'll see an interior of fort stephens. and then the low end is a photo of fort slemer which is my favorite photograph of the civil war defenses of washington because it shows you what a fort looked like on the outside. vegetation has been removed.
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but you have the front. this is the sally fort where the troops coming out. you can see over into the fort where the guns are mounted. so that's really one of my favorite photographs. so this is very helpful for a start. fort ward is a good place to actually start our tour of the civil war defenses of washington. before we go out and actually look at fort ward, i want to point out this is an 1864 plan of the fort. the part that has been restored here is the northwest corn cher is right here. and you'll see that. the rest of the fort is not as distinct when you walk through it. but the northwest section is. this is a model of the fort as it might have looked. notice around it is the outside of the ditch. and then the fort itself and this is the northwest bastian
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here. and the fort, itself, and this is the northwest bastion here. this is the gate, or sally port, to ft. ward. it was on the rear wall of the fort. it's been redone a number of times. the army down at ft. belvoir, especially when the engineers were there, helped redo this gate a number of times. but this is your entrance to ft. ward. i want to point out, if we look around, there were buildings here. they are based on plans and photographs of buildings that were actually in the defenses of washington. but there were other gates like this at some of the other forts, too. they may not have been as nice, but some of them were, you know, with the name up above like you see here. the 1865 probably would not have been on the original gate. above it is the engineer castle. that's the logo of army engineers. and as i told you, the local --
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the engineers at ft. belvoir helped rebuild this gate a number of times so they put the engineer castle on top. and, of course, they oversaw the construction of the original defenses of washington. this is one of the best preserved of the various forts that were in the defenses of washington. these parts of it are fairly well taken care of, but once we get to the northwest bastion, you will see what the fort would have looked like at the time of the civil war. but these are all parts of the fort that we're actually in. it was a large one, so you have a large area. there is also signage that we
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will see as we walk through explaining what each resource we run into was. such as a sign here which is pointing out that there was a bombproof right here which collapsed in. but a bombproof basically was for men to go in when the fort was being shelled and it would protect them. depending, it would at least be made out of earth. sometimes they had a basement from something they used or bricks or whatever they used in it, but it had dirt over top with grass growing on it, and if you got inside the bombproof, you were pretty well safe. that's what's underneath here. we are coming to the northwest bastion, and first of all, notice the revetment, the wood that is there to strengthen the fort. besides the earth, you have the wood that helps keep it in place.
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you can see the guns, and they are a variety of guns that you will see. and this is what happened at a lot of forts. it's what guns you could get ahold of. you have everything from field artillery to some bigger guns. the fort, itself, was supposed to cover the little river turnpike, the orange and alexandria railroad and the leesburg and alexandria pike, but we are on a high point, so the guns can fire for a long distance and they can cover those areas. the original fort that was built for 24 guns when it was redone finally in 1864, it held 36 guns and was the perimeter of 18 from 54 yards to 8

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